Posted by: rcottrill | June 21, 2017

That Old, Old Story Is True

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Words: D. B. Watkins (no data available)
Music: Edwin Othello Excell (b. Dec, 13, 1851; d. June 10, 1921)

Wordwise Hymns (Edwin Excell)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: We know nothing about Watkins, except that he likely wrote this following song around 1886. Musicians such as Excell likely received poems all the time that the authors hoped could be set to music.) I’ve sung this one as a solo in years gone by. You’ll see that there is a kind of refrain. But because it’s somewhat different in each stanza, it has to be printed each time, making the stanzas a dozen lines long.

The Greek story teller Aesop is believed to have lived about twenty-six centuries ago, but the book Aesop’s Fables continues to be read and enjoyed. Androcles and the Lion, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and The Tortoise and the Hare (“Slow and steady won the race”) and more, have delighted children and adults over the years.

Aesop’s tales, with their talking animals and other strange happenings, weren’t intended to be an record of actual events. They’re made up stories designed to teach moral lessons, something like that parables of Jesus. That is quite different from a non-fiction book, though there can be moral and spiritual lessons there, too.

For example, in 1954-55, during months when he was recovering from back surgery, then-senator John Kennedy wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning book Profiles in Courage. He told of men born in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, United States senators who dared to stand on a moral principle, rather than clinging to party loyalty. And that does take courage.

In Kennedy’s book we find out about real people such as lawyer, statesman, and orator, Daniel Webster. When I was young, I visited an American museum with my parents where I was allowed by the curator to hold Webster’s rifle. It brought the reality of his life home to me. Historical narratives enable us to look at real events and see how individuals affected not only their own time, but changed the course of history.

Which brings us to the Bible. It does contain some fictional stories, such as the aforementioned parables of Christ. But conservative commentators (of which I am one) believe it is God’s inspired Word, infallible in its entirety, and that its account of history is true and trustworthy, from creation (Gen. 1:1) to where its narrative sections end during the time of the Apostle Paul (Acts 28:30-31).

One event of critical importance to Christians is the resurrection of Christ. The Bible teaches that the Son of God came to earth, and died to take upon Himself the punishment for our sins (I Cor. 13:3). We are saved eternally through personal faith in Him (Jn. 3:16). But “if Christ is not risen, [our] faith is futile; [we] are still in [our] sins!” (vs. 17). A dead saviour is no saviour at all. Praise the Lord, the Bible’s record of the resurrection of Christ is true.

But one who looked upon the Saviour’s victory over death as a fabrication was Albert Ross (1881-1950). In 1930, working under the pen name Frank Morison, he began a book in which he intended to prove the resurrection story to be fictional and a hoax. But, the more he studied his subject, the more convinced He became that Jesus did, indeed, rise from the grave. His book, Who Moved the Stone? is still in print.

As stories go, the biblical account of the life of Christ is an old one. It’s likely He was born in Bethlehem in 5 BC, and that He was crucified, buried and rose again in AD 30. But there are still multitudes who need to hear about all of that–and many want to, if only someone would tell them.

The gospel song by Catherine Hankey (1834-1911) expresses a call from those in need:

Tell me the old, old story
Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory,
Of Jesus and His love.

Yes, it is an old story. But those who tell it need to assure those who listen (or read) about the Lord Jesus, and about His death and resurrection, that these things are true. They really happened, and they’re relevant to our lives today. That’s what Watkins’s song tells us.

CH-1) There’s a wonderful story I’ve heard long ago,
’Tis called “The sweet story of old;”
I hear it so often, wherever I go,
That same old story was told;
And I’ve thought it was strange that so often they’d tell
That story as if it were new;
But I’ve found out the reason they loved it so well,
That old, old story is true.

That old, old story is true,
That old, old story is true;
But I’ve found out the reason they loved it so well,
That old, old story is true.

CH-2) They told me of a being so lovely and pure,
That came to the earth to dwell,
To seek for His lost ones, and make them secure,
From death and the power of hell;
That He was despised and with thorns He was crowned,
On the cross was extended to view;
But oh, what sweet peace in my heart since I’ve found
That old, old story is true.

That old, old story is true,
That old, old story is true;
But oh, what sweet peace in my heart since I’ve found
That old, old story is true.

1) What are some things that make “that old, old story” meaningful and relevant today?

2) What can you say to someone who tells you, “I don’t believe the Bible; it’s just a bunch of old myths”?

Wordwise Hymns (Edwin Excell)
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. What makes it relevant today is that nothing has changed. There is nothing new under the sun….at the core humans haven’t changed and we still need to be reconciled to God through Christ. The Bible is ever relevant because it is God’s truth. God does not change, therefore His word is ever true, ever trustworthy and ever relevant. The Holy Spirit indwelling the believer brings them to an understanding and appreciation and love for the scriptures. Praise God that His truth never changes and the gospel never loses its power!

    To the person who says they don’t believe the Bible….well, what about telling them that it’s a spiritual book and so it’s no wonder if it seems like irrelevant myths to them. Before salvation, people are spiritually incapable of understanding God’s truth. We likely felt the same way before the Lord changed our hearts and the Holy Spirit brought us to spiritual life and understanding. It’s not that we were somehow smarter than others; faith is a gift, given by God, and with it comes spiritual understanding of the scriptures.


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